MetLife Foundation: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: The philanthropic arm of MetLife primarily focuses on “financial inclusion” for economically disadvantaged communities around the world. This is manifested in a concern for building the capacity of economically disadvantaged people to engage with and benefit from the financial goods and services sector.

IP TAKE: MetLife does not maintain a higher education-specific program, and only a handful of institutions receive funding from this foundation each year. But scholarship providers, universities whose research aligns with MetLife’s overarching goals, and faculty researching Alzheimer's Disease are positioned for funding.  

PROFILE: MetLife Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the financial services and life insurance giant MetLife. Since 2013, the foundation has focused its energies on “financial inclusion,” especially in terms of improving financial literacy, responsibility, and management in low-income and middle-income communities, or as the foundation puts, it,  “to increase the number of people able to make smart financial choices.”  To that end, the foundation’s grantmaking encompasses “traditional financial education training,” “approaches that include clear pathways to put knowledge into practice,” and “work to combine individualized financial coaching with access to and use of affordable products and services.” The foundation primarily focuses its funding on applied technology and behavioral economics.

While the foundation does not prioritize higher education, it has funded some important work in higher education. MetLife also sometimes allocates funds to universities whose research aligns with its overarching priorities. A prominent example of this strategy came in the form of an announcement in late 2015 that MetLife would be awarding a three-year, $7.9 million grant to Duke University to help launch the CommonCents Lab, “an initiative that will apply behavioral economics to identify new ways to help millions of Americans,” particularly those in lower- and middle-class communities, to “improve their saving and spending habits.” On a smaller scale, the foundation also recently gave $100,000 as part of a partnership with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte “to establish a ‘Women in Business’ leadership program in the University’s Belk College of Business.”

For individual researchers, the foundation offers MetLife Foundation Awards for Medical Research. Administered by the American Federation for Aging Research, MetLife Foundation gives out up to $500,000 total per year to “provide outstanding researchers with an opportunity to freely pursue new ideas” related specifically to the study of Alzheimer’s Disease. Within this, each “major award carries a $150,000 institutional grant and a personal prize of $50,000.” Past award winners are listed here.

Grants may range from $10,000 to $2 million. MetLife will not read any unsolicited proposals or letters of inquiry. It only invites proposals from “organizations that have proven success in the area of financial inclusion.”

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